Feeds

Faster-than-light back with surprising CERN discovery

Where’d that neutrino come from? The future

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Only weeks since mathematicians proved it couldn’t be done, CERN boffins have put the smile back on sci-fi fans’ faces everywhere by discovering neutrinos travelling faster than light.

The astonishing results, reported by Reuters and others, came as the result of the OPERA experiment in which 15,000 beams of neutrinos were fired from Geneva to the Gran Sasso in Italy.

While the researchers are still advocating “prudence” in the face of these results, they believe their observations – in which the neutrinos made the 730 km journey 60 nanoseconds faster than light would have done – are accurate.

The difference between the neutrinos’ journey and light-speed is just 20 parts per million faster, in favour of the neutrinos. The researchers will be publishing their paper on arxiv.org today (23 September). CERN also plans a public Webcast to discuss the observations here.

Spokesman for the OPERA experiment Antonio Ereditato said the result is a “complete surprise”, while former Fermilab physicist Alfons Weber is quoted by AFP as saying the results still need to be replicated elsewhere. Earlier experiments have recorded faster-than-light neutrinos, but only within the margin of error for the experiment.

El Reg: As you might expect, the story has been greeted by “break the laws of physics” and “Einstein wrong!” headlines all over the world. This is both bad science and bad for science, and needs to be dealt with.

If relativity is “wrong”, which is how some people claiming the mantle of “science writer” are putting it, then how come all that stuff that depends on relativity (lasers come to mind) is still working even though neutrinos have apparently travelled faster than light? For the same reason that we can still use Newtonian gravity to predict stellar objects’ behavior: all theories are limited in scope.

The discovery of faster-than-light neutrinos is, if true, wildly exciting for physicists: it opens up a physics in which Einsteinian relativity doesn’t hold true, just as Einstein discovered a physics in which Newtonian gravity didn’t hold true. Einstein is still right within the boundaries of the universe he described; CERN’s found a new universe that Einstein didn’t describe.

Why is bad reporting bad for science?

Because it encourages a simplistic and ignorant understanding of science among the general public.

The reason science works is that it can be proven wrong, if you can do the experiment, replicate the results, and have your results worked over tooth-and-claw by your equals.

The neutrinos change the world not because they “disprove” relativity, but because they create a physics that Einstein didn’t describe. Einstein created a new physics to describe a world that Newton couldn’t; we now need a new physics, or at least new bits of physics, to describe a world that Einstein couldn’t (Yes: a real physicist could put this better than I can).

The test of a theory is that it can be falsified. It’s the last test, if you like, of real science. Only simpletons need to live in a world in which falsifiability somehow equals inadequacy. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks ELEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9000 beer tokens - and counting
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.